Daito-ryu originated within the family of Emperor Seiwa (reigned A.D. 858 – 876) and was greatly developed by one of the emperor's descendants, Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, in the eleventh century. Through his careful study of human anatomy, he made a point of visiting battlefields and execution grounds to examine and dissect the bodies of dead and executed criminals. Through the dissection of the bodies, Yoshimitsu was able to determine the most effective strikes, blows, holds, joint locks, and pins.

To appreciate the mysteries of Aiki, or harmonized energy, Yoshimitsu spent hours observing a female spider trapping prey in her web. Additionally, he was a talented musician, and while accompanying dancers on his sho (a type of wind instrument), he gained insight into the nature of good rhythm and smooth transition between movements of Aiki. Yoshimitsu incorporated all of this knowledge into the martial art he had been taught by family members and in turn passed on his improved and expanded system to his sons which came to be known as the “Daito Ryu,” after the name of one of his residences.

Yoshikiyo, his eldest son, settled in the village of Takeda in Koma and founded the Takeda branch of the Minamoto clan. The Daito Ryu tradition of Yoshimitsu was subsequently handed down in complete secrecy to successive generations of the Takeda family. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the family, led by Kunitsugu Takeda, shifted its main base to the Aizu district. There, the martial art system became known as o-shiki-uchi, oFriday, November 10, 2017 6:08 PMtial art”; both these terms are thought to suggest the great secrecy with which the Daito Ryu techniques were guarded. The art was secretly transmitted to the samurai of the Aizu domain until the fall of the Shogunate in 1868.

It was not until the nineteenth century when martial art genius Sokaku Takeda began to teach the Daito Ryu to the public-that the art became widely known. Sokaku was born in 1860 in Aizu, where he received instruction in the traditional o-shiki-uchi arts of the Aizu clan from his relatives, and also from Tanomo Saigo (1830-1903), the last minister of the Aizu domain. Sokaku is considered the thirty-fifth Grand Master of the Daito Ryu tradition stemming from Kunitsugu Takeda.

In addition to the Daito Ryu system, Sokaku studied many other martial arts and acquired firsthand combat experience in street fights throughout the country. Around the turn of the century, Sokaku began teaching the Daito Ryu system, which then groups of military officers, police officials, and aristocrats. Sokaku was based in remote northern Japan but made occasional journeys to Tokyo and western Japan. In the course of his travels, Sokaku defeated all challengers. It is said that thirty thousand martial artists received instruction at Sokaku's hands. Of this vast number, only twenty or so received formal teaching licenses from him. Several of Sokaku's students also became extremely distinguished teachers.

It is a fact that Sokaku Takeda did not teach each student in the same way, nor was the way of performing the techniques identical in each line of Daito Ryu. It is speculated that Sokaku taught each student according to their individual learning styles, and varying needs of each learner. He changed methods and techniques at will and each change has developed into a particular trademark for each style of Daito Ryu. Those styles being Takumakai from Hisa Takuma, or Kodo Kai from Kodo Horikawa, or the techniques of Yukiyoshi Sagawa, as well as Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

Daito-ryu Goshinkan Renmei

Traditional Heritage:

Saigo Tanomo
Daito Ryu Koryu
May 16, 1830 – April 28, 1903

Sokaku Takeda
Daito Ryu Takeda Den
Oct. 10, 1859 – April 25, 1943


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